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The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Give Your Kids (or get from them)

March 20, 2019

Our youngest daughter, Jenny, gives the best gifts.  Me, when it comes to giving gifts, I either give the neatest thing I find on Amazon in my budget range, or I’ll get something I’d like to have (on the assumption that everybody I know is as smart as I am and would have the good sense to have my awesome tastes).  It usually only takes me a few minutes to pick out a gift card.  Umm.  I probably shouldn’t put that out there on the InterWebs…

That’s not how Jenny does it.  She takes time to find just the right thing for the person she’s giving the gift to.  I mean, LOTS of time.  And lots of thought.  The outcome is that what she gives is a delight to the recipient.  I know because I’ve been the delighted recipient lots of times.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever given someone?

What’s the best gift you’ve ever been given?

The answer to both of these questions is totally subjective.  There’s no standard for what’s a good gift or a bad one, except what you think is good or bad.

Here’s my answer to both of these questions: Forgiveness.  In my life, the best gift I’ve ever been given is forgiveness, and the best gift I’ve ever given is forgiveness.

Yes, I’m going a little theological on you here.  The most dramatic gift of forgiveness I or anybody else has been given is God’s forgiveness.  Yep.  That’s a great Sunday School answer.  But it happens to be true.  My life both now and for eternity depend on this.  This is the message of the New Testament.  The only hope any of us has for eternity in heaven is that God has given us the gift of His forgiveness.

And it is a gift.  Forgiveness can’t be earned.  It has to be given (and received) as a gift.  None of us are forgiven and made right with God because we deserve it by earning it.  Lots of people are trying really hard to earn their way into a forgiven and whole relationship with God.  They go to church, read the Bible, pray, give time and money.  And then they carefully turn their gaze to God and ask, “So are we good now?”  But they never really know if they’re actually good with Him.  It’s a flawed system.

Forgiveness is a gift of grace.  God forgives us not because we deserve it, or because we’ve finally done something that makes Him have to give it up for us.  He gives it because of His grace.  As a gift form His heart and hand.  It’s not that complicated.  But it’s possibly the most important theological concept of all.

And when we forgive another, it’s a gift of grace, as well.  It’s not given because they deserve it.  It’s not something they can earn.  It’s a gift, plane and simple.

Now, trust is earned.  That’s a whole other thing.  When you forgive me, you aren’t binding yourself to trust me as though nothing has happened.  You can forgive me without fully trusting me.  You release trust to me as I demonstrate my trustworthiness.  Some people get really hung on the horns of this dilemma.  They struggle to forgive because they struggle to trust.  I get that.  I have this same struggle from time to time.  But trusting and forgiving are two different things.

OK, let’s bring it out of the clouds, down to the runway.  No relationship can survive without forgiveness.  Every human relationship is between two (or more) imperfect humans.  Because of our imperfections, we will disappoint, short-change, hurt each other.  Sometimes hurt each other deeply.

This is nowhere more true than in marriage and family life.  You’ll hurt your spouse.  You WILL hurt them.  You may have already done it today.  You’ll hurt your kids.  Your spouse will hurt you.  Your kids will hurt you.  Welcome to the dance, fellow human.

There’s a lot more to forgiving than I’ll be able to put into this blog post.  I teach a six-session series on it called, Choosing To Forgive.  Maybe one day you’ll get to do this series with me.  But not today.  I’ll just put this part of it out there: forgiveness is a process, not an event.  The process begins when I choose to forgive the one who hurt me.  It may continue for a very long time as I continue to choose to forgive them every time the offense (the hurt) comes to mind.  But any offense that is deeper than a scratch will take more than a moment, and will involve MANY choices to forgive.

So with that in mind, what’s the finest gift you can give your kids?  You’ll be glad to know it’s not an XBox or an iPhone, or a laptop computer or a new car.  It will cost you more than any of these.  That’s the nature of forgiveness.  It’s noble to talk about, but it’s often really expensive and hard to actually forgive.  My favorite author, C.S. Lewis, said it this way:

“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.”

Forgiving – truly forgiving – your spouse or your kids is the best gift you can give them.  Not one of the best.  THE best gift.

Dr.Archibald Hart says, “Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.”  That’s big.  Especially in a world of tit for tat.  Especially in a family that keeps score.

But when I choose to give up my right to hurt you for hurting me, even though I may not be able to trust you until you prove that you’re trustworthy, I can open my heart to you and want for you what is best for you.

When you do that, it’s not the offender that goes free.  It’s you who does.  But holding on to an injury or offense is tethering yourself to it.  It’s choosing to be chained to it.  The result is anger, resentment, bitterness.  In a word, bondage.

And then there’s this one other thing (with two parts).  When you don’t forgive people, you model a behavior to your kids that they get, even if you don’t think they do.  They’ll do what they see.  But when you choose to forgive, they see that, too.  And they’ll model it.  And that’s important, because sometime you’ll need them to forgive you.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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